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Crawford's beauty captured at Sycamore Springs Park

July 16, 2008
Gas prices got you down? Don't know of any way to beat the heat? Think affordable family fun is a thing of the past? Well, if you're in need of some welcome distractions, look no further than your own backyard. Residents of Crawford, Floyd and Harrison counties will be pleased to learn that there are plenty of interesting places to visit within the tri-county area that don't require a lot of money for admission or traveling. In a new weekly column, the Clarion News will feature places that you can take your family for a good time on the cheap. This week we'll be featuring Sycamore Springs Park.

Right near old English, there's a place where natural beauty is captured within the confines of 250 acres of rolling grass hills and wooded riverscape. It's a place where "roughing it" still means just that, as well as a spot where you can just forget the world for a couple hours and let the smell of oak and pine overtake you.

The large, yellow tube bearing the namesake of the park is a favorite play spot of visiting children. (Photos by Nick Simpson)
Sycamore Springs Park is a family-owned free park established by the Roberson family in 1997. It is currently managed by Jim and Nidrah Dial, Jack Roberson and Dale Roberson. Originally, the park consisted of the old family farm where Clayton Roberson raised sorghum molasses, but his children have since expanded the property to include several connecting acres of land along the Little Blue River.

The river itself borders the park on three sides and offers a place where kids and adults alike can cool off with a quick dip.

"When it's hot, you'll see a hundred kids in the creek," Dale Roberson said. "People even set up their lawn chairs in the creek to cool their feet."

The unfinished chapel, seen here from the back, promises to conjure an "old" look and feel, both inside and out, when completed. The basement will also house modern restroom and shower facilities. Weddings in the chapel will still be free.
The other water features include four scenic ponds scattered about the park. Since the ponds are mud-bottomed and only 15 feet deep, they are not ideal for swimming, but they're perfect for fishing. The family stocks the ponds with local fish species, like bluegill.

While there is fishing allowed, hunting on the park grounds is strictly prohibited. The park also says "no" to ATVs and alcohol. The park is designed for quiet family fun.

For those not privy to camping in one of the two large tent areas of Camp Granada and Camp Timberlake, there are 20 RV sites. Each camping area, both tented and RV, also comes equipped with access to modern restrooms and showers as well as port-a-potties for those who like camping, but still enjoy some of the finer privileges of modern life.

This picture-perfect pond is one of four on the park grounds. Scenic views are plentiful at Sycamore Springs.
The park also has two electric tent sites for campers with breathing machines or other electric necessities.

The campgrounds are weekly occupied by Boy Scout troops from all over Indiana and Kentucky. The most recent group was centered out of Elkhart, six hours away.

If camping isn't your thing, the park also contains three shelter houses, a bandstand and several playgrounds for kids. The park has been known to host everything from bluegrass festivals to reunions to weddings.

"We do a lot of outdoor weddings," Nidrah Dial said.

While the outdoor weddings are a popular event for the bandstand, the family hopes to eventually move the weddings to the park's chapel that's currently under construction. The weddings, like the park, are free with the exception of a small cleaning fee for larger wedding parties.

Illustration by Alisha Sonner
The chapel, when finished, promises to have modern restrooms and showers for wedding guests and those staying at the park. Installing these facilities will also open up the waterfront that the chapel overlooks for primitive camping.

The chapel, like most of the park, has a touch of history to it. The beautiful wood beams that form the rib-shaped ceiling of the chapel were taken from the old Officer's Club at Fort Knox. Creating a sense of local nostalgia, the stained-glass windows along the sides of the chapel originally adorned the walls of the old English Presbyterian Chapel before it was damaged in the flood of 1979.

The act of reusing materials is a common theme within the park. The large bridge across the Little Blue in the back part of the park contains girders from an actual highway bridge. The rideable spring animals in Bea's Hive, the playground area named for Bea Roberson, were rescued from the Silvercrest Children's Developmental Center in New Albany when it was closed.

The designer and procurer of most of the materials for these projects is Jim Dial, who has done a lot to improve his late father-in-law's land. Most of the funding for these projects comes from the Clayton Roberson Family Foundation, a memorial fund set up in Dale and Nidrah's father's name.

In a true testament to their love of their old farm home and Crawford County, the Roberson family plans to keep the park in their name and have even taken measures to prevent the park from ever being owned by the state. This way the family can be sure that the park will still in the future cater specifically to Crawford County without charging anything.

The park's open season begins May 1 and ends Nov. 1. The busy months tend to vary depending on the activity. Campers tend to come in the early summer and late fall when the weather isn't too hot while August is the biggest month for shelter house reservations. The busiest times during the week tend to be the weekends. Although the park does seem to be quite peaceful at all times, for guaranteed "R and R," it would be best to come during the week.

Sycamore Springs is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Those spending the night in the park are given a code to the electronic gate. While anyone can visit during open hours, tent camps require a reservation 48 hours prior to arrival. RV campers are also recommended to call for reservations.

* * *

Hours: 7 Days a Week

8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

For more information or to make a reservation: call 338-3846

or visit www.sycamorespringspark.com

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    Sycamore Springs Park
    July 17, 2008 | 07:56 AM

    Thank you for publishing a nice article about the park. It truly is a treasure and a place the late Clayton Roberson and his siblings would have been so proud of. We enjoy the park every time we visit.

    Clif and Beth Seaton, Newburgh, Indiana
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